September 16, 2014
Ontario, Opinions

For turbines, trust is a two-way street

By Amanda Moore | Grimsby Lincoln News | 16 September 2014 |

Ontarians are to trust that the government is doing what’s best them, but how can we trust the government when it fails to protect us?

That is the question Anne Meinen has been asking since industrial wind turbines were erected next to lands she has farmed for four decades. Her issue isn’t with the turbines themselves, but with the fact that one was located closer to her property line than government regulations stipulate. And last week she heard the reason was that the government trusted the proponent. Because the proponent said the turbines met the regulations, no-one bothered to take a look.

“The MOE believed the turbines were 95 metres or greater from the property line,” Vic Schroeter told an environmental review tribunal last week. “First and foremost we trust the information submitted to us by the applicant.”

First and foremost the government trusts the applicant? What about, first and foremost the government ensures the applicant meets the regulations to protect citizens?

The provincial government cannot deny that wind turbines are not always welcomed with open arms by host communities. Those who oppose these developments have brought their issues to Ontario’s doorstep. They have rallied and protested at Queen’s Park, they have written their MPPs and countless ministers as well as Premier Kathleen Wynne.

It is not just the residents banging those pans, either. Dozens of municipal councils have passed resolution after resolution to try to find some way to stop the threat of wind turbines, whether by way of passing a setback bylaw or declaring the community “not a willing host.”

Given the knowledge that many Ontarians aren’t happy with the wind agenda, the government should be going over these applications with a fine tooth comb. They shouldn’t be taking the wind company’s word that the project meets all requirements. They should actually look at it. Someone should at least be checking that all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted.

In its application for a renewable energy approval to operate a nine-megawatt wind farm, Vineland Power Inc. stated that all five turbines met the required setbacks of the Green Energy Act. Once the turbines were up, it took a quick measurement from a resident to determine that wasn’t the case at all. Four of the turbines are closer to property lines than regulations allow.

Under the act, turbines must be located a minimum of the turbine’s hub height – in this case, 95 metres – from neighbouring properties. This is to ensure that should the turbine fall, it will not damage neighbouring property.

How this was missed on the applicant’s side is not the purpose of this column. But how a government, that is voted in my the people, to protect the people, missed it, is.

In her testimony, Meinen said her trust in government is ruined.

“What other mistakes have been made? This worries me a great deal,” she told the tribunal.

Meinen is right to be worried and Ontarians as a whole should be as well. It appears our government puts trust ahead of responsibility, first and foremost.

What would happen if all levels of government did that?

Your neighbour puts up a pool and a quarter of it is on your property. You go to town hall to complain and the response is “we trusted your neighbour’s measurements.” Is that an adequate response? Likely not.

Health Canada approves a new drug and thousands of people get sick. “But the drug company told us there were no side effects” is likely not going to cut it in this case, either.

First and foremost a government should ensure that projects at the very least meet their own regulations. Why have regulations if they aren’t going to be upheld?

The world is flat after all. Trust me, you should take my word for it.

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